How FIU Students Celebrate Thanksgiving

Janelle Arce, a freshman majoring in psychology, shared a list of food the women in her family made for Thanksgiving. Four other students shared how they do or don't celebrate the holiday. Anna Radinsky/PantherNOW

Anna Radinsky/Entertainment Director

There is no one way to celebrate Thanksgiving or “Sans Gibing” in Miami.

At FIU, five students from Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Costa Rica and Colombia shared how their families do or don’t celebrate the holiday.

Sofia Sanchez, a senior majoring in journalism, is bringing her 40 to 50 member Cuban family together with her first Thanksgiving murder mystery party.

Sofia Sanchez celebrated this Thanksgiving with her first murder mystery party.

The party is also meant to have the family come together ever since her grandmother passed away in 2016.

“We’re not all together all the time like we used to be when my grandma was alive and I know that it would make her sad to know that. So that’s why I planned this entire murder mystery,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez gave roles to everyone who’s attending the party, created props and masks, hid items around the house and even gave the role of the murder victim to her 72-year-old father.

“I made a will because my dad is the person we’re killing. I had to tell everyone because I know that if he starts faking the death scene and someone doesn’t know what’s going on, they’re going to call 911 and we can’t have that happen,” said Sanchez.

She hid her father’s fake will inside a bag filled with rocks and sank it at the bottom of a pond.

Diary entries from her father’s fake mistress are hidden around the house.

Her brother in law plays the inventor of the washing machine and there’s evidence that he’s underpaying his employees under a lamp shade.

Dave Nerestant said that his family’s Thanksgiving is very Haitian-based.

“I’m really into it because I really want everyone to have a good time so people are excited to keep coming back every year. My grandma was the glue that held us together but just because she isn’t here doesn’t mean that we can’t all be together anymore,” said Sanchez.

Dave Nerestant, a junior majoring in sociology, said that his family brings Haitian flavor to traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

“Our Thanksgiving is completely different. The only American thing that we actually have is the turkey, mashed potatoes and potato salad,” said Nerestant.

Nerestant’s family’s Haitian version of a traditional American Thanksgiving differs in that the turkey is not cooked whole, there’s a lot of seasoning on dishes and everything is made from scratch.

“Obviously Haiti is very African based… we really stick to our culinary styles pretty much every holiday, including Thanksgiving,” said Nerestant.

Joey Morales, a senior majoring in chemistry, is a member of the Pijao people of Colombia. His family takes the day off from the holiday.

Joey Morales, a member of the Pijao people of Colombia, does not celebrate Thanksgiving but shed light on injustices made on native people.

“The fall season is kind of a bittersweet feeling for us because you have Columbus Day and Halloween, where a bunch of people dress up like Indians, furthering the idea that native people aren’t currently around. And then you have Thanksgiving, which is a glorification of a story where we were massacred,” said Morales.

Morales shared that the first supposed native people, the Mashpee Wampanoag, who feasted with the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving lost sovereignty of their land in eastern Massachusetts last year under Trump.

“The first community and the first tribe that actually met with the Pilgrims are now facing a loss of rights, treaty rights and sovereignty. This is bittersweet for all of us,” said Morales.

Maria Parente, a sophomore majoring in biology, celebrates Thanksgiving differently every year with her two parents because her entire extended family lives in Brazil.

Maria Parente celebrates Thanksgiving differently every year with her parents.

“We can never figure out what we’re going to have for dinner because we don’t like turkey. So some years it’s turkey but made really abstractly, something that Gordon Ramsay would criticize very deeply, and sometimes it’s a roast of another kind of bird,” said Parente.

Last year, Parente’s family had fried chicken and this year they’re arguing over whether to go out for pho or Chinese food.

“I think that the chaos of it is a different kind of chaos than the chaos traditionally associated with Thanksgiving,” said Parente.

Janelle Arce, a freshman majoring in psychology, lists off what responsibilities most women of her Costa Rican family are given to contribute to the feast.

“We do have a family dinner but I think traditionally one person does all the cooking. With my family, we kind of delegate the tasks,” said Arce.

Arce’s grandmother makes flan, her mother makes mac and cheese, one aunt makes a Brussels sprout meal and another aunt makes a pumpkin pie or a sweet potato mash. Her sister is making a cheesecake and Arce is making a chocolate ganache cake and maybe an apple pie this year.

Each of the women in Janelle Arce’s family has a task to bring a dish to the final Thanksgiving feast.

After cooking is finished, the family then comes together at a select person’s house to host the family dinner.

A prayer is given by Arce’s grandmother to start off the meal, joking mixes with eating, dessert is squeezed into already full bellies and then everyone separates into different parts of the house to play with kids, dance or socialize.

“One time my aunts and I had a Nerf war,” said Arce.

Arce finds deep joy in knowing that her family can come together after strict preparation and planning that leads up to Thanksgiving Day.

“We don’t always have the traditional foods. We have our own little spins on it with Hispanic stuff like flan and maybe arroz con leche and coquito. It’s always really nice but also the fact that everyone brings something to come together really shows that all of our family is a part of something.”

Photos by Anna Radinsky

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